Celebrating 40 Years of PPIA

December 13, 2021

For 40 years, the Ford School's Public Policy & International Affairs Junior Summer Institute fellowship (PPIA JSI), previously known as the Sloan or Woodrow Wilson fellowship, has helped launch promising undergraduate students on a path toward careers in public service. Along the way, it's improved the profession by making public leadership more representative of our increasingly diverse communities. The Ford School has supported this program since its inception in 1981, and we've been one of just a handful of policy schools to host the educational initiative every year.

This summer, we celebrated the 40th anniversary with a panel of distinguished alumni, and reconnected with the 825 students who've come through PPIA here in Ann Arbor.

We're so proud of what those alumni have done with their careers. Here, some of our alums reflect on the impact of the program and share their favorite JSI memories. If you recognize yourself in any of the photos, drop us a line: we'll send you a print!

Collage of photos from PPIA over its 40 year history

Changed lives

"My PPIA experience taught me I am capable of high-level policy analysis and thinking and motivated me to pursue a career in public service." Shirley Araiza Santa (PPIA '18) now works for U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01).

"PPIA provided the best training in comms and professional writing that I ever got. It also significantly built my confidence in my quantitative skills. I'm still friends with classmates and am now married to one of them!" Liz Baker (PPIA '13) currently is a crisis and strategy account manager with Sunshine Sachs. She is married to Patrick Smith (PPIA '13).

"As a new immigrant, the program opened doors for me. The founding spirit of the program was to encourage diversity in public service; my 30 years in public service is a testament to achieving that goal. The program works because of the people behind it; Professor John Chamberlin was an advocate and a passionate teacher who profoundly changed my life." Ed Chu (PPIA '83, MPP '88) currently serves as deputy regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency's Region 7 in Lenexa, KS.

"PPIA was instrumental in shaping my view of policy for what it is and what it can become. I met one of my lifelong best friends at PPIA, and to this day we have the same types of conversations we had in Ann Arbor about politics, power, and the future." Sonja Diaz (PPIA '06) served as policy counsel to former Attorney General Kamala Harris, ran a voter protection program in Virginia, and founded the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA.

"PPIA gave me the opportunity to attend graduate school as a first generation college student and meet like-minded individuals who are just as committed to public service. It was a transformative experience that prepared me for graduate school (and beyond). I took my first stats class during my time at PPIA. I didn't expect to, but enjoyed it so much that I decided to pursue a career related to the subject." Jocelyn Kuo (PPIA '16, MPP/ MSI '21) is now a data analyst with the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Collage of photos from PPIA over its 40 year history

"This program was the stepping stone I needed to begin a completely new path. I learned to be more confident in myself and my knowledge, to dream big, and to navigate the world with pride being authentically myself." After working for an environmental nonprofit in Puerto Rico and at Chicago city council, Javi Piñeiro (PPIA '17) is now a dual JD/MPP at the Ford School and Michigan Law.

"PPIA was determinant in me not only going to grad school, but having the confidence to apply to the best schools. My professors helped identify the gaps i had in basic math that made calculus and other advanced math so difficult. i knew after that, nothing could hold me back." Laura Rivera Carrion (PPIA '99, MPP '02) currently serves as coordinating officer for disaster recovery for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the Caribbean Region.

"I always return to Hillary Clinton's statement about how it takes a village to raise a child, and that's how I view PPIA. I have made strong friendships, lasting memories, and gotten close to faculty. PPIA is my village." Justin Rodriguez (PPIA '18) interned at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and then participated in the Data Science for All fellowship through Correlation One.

"PPIA has had the single-largest impact on my current life trajectory of any experience in my education or career. PPIA sparked my passion for racial equity and justice, which has since brought me into community organizing for collective liberation and abolition of the carceral state." Ian Snyder (PPIA '17) is a policy analyst with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, working within the division of COVID containment.

"The lessons I learned at PPIA have served me well, including during my time as a nonprofit executive, as an attorney in public practice, and as a board member of various civic and cultural organizations." Paxton Williams (PPIA '99, MPP '02) currently serves as the Iowa Assistant Attorney General.

Collage of photos from PPIA over its 40 year history

Favorite memories

"Beating then-Dean Susan Collins at Cornhole. Dean Collins, if you're reading this, I'm still waiting on our spades game." Darrius Atkins (PPIA '15) graduated from the University of Chicago Law School and is a government transactions & public policy associate at Mayer Brown.

"Jumping into the Huron River to save three fellows who flipped their canoe." Paul Charbboneau (PPIA '19) graduated during a pandemic, managed a winning Washington State House campaign, and serves as a board member for the National Alliance on Mental Illness Washington.

"Having heart-to-heart conversations with people in my cohort. Talking to other students in my cohort who are driven about the public good while also talking about the struggles we go through as first-gen and low-income students made me realize that our experiences and passion is what makes us unique and valuable in graduate school and our professional careers." Alessandra Del Rosario (PPIA '21) is an undergraduate at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

"When we were coming back from our Chicago trip, my cohort decided to jump into (Lake Michigan) fully clothed." Sabina Dorville (PPIA '19) is currently an MPA student at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

Calculus with Professor Carl Simon was so much fun. Used to try to guess how much orange juice he would consume each class. He was so warm and engaging!" Stacy Ebron (PPIA '95, MPP '99) is the Pittsfield Township Park Commissioner.

Collage of photos from PPIA over its 40 year history

"There are so many to choose from! The best memories were made studying with others from my cohort. We routinely stayed up late together making sure we all understood the material. The most memorable has to be one of my classmates using a towel to capture a bat in our dorm that just narrowly missed my head!" Katie Garay (PPIA '16) joined the U.S. Foreign Service and is currently stationed in Bangkok, Thailand.

"I will never forget the song we created about our summer sung to the tune of the 'Golden Girls' theme." LaTiefa (Alston) Hairston (PPIA '97, MPP '00) is a founder, coordinator, and 8th grade teacher for ASAP Gender Academy at Bear Creek Middle School in Fulton County, GA.

"We had the pleasure of learning from then Dean Susan Collins who made every effort to ensure our experience was rich and full of quality—from hosting us at her home to arranging a visit to the local branch of the Federal Reserve. " Chris Harried (PPIA '15) is a doctoral student at North Carolina State University.

"Spending 4th of July at Dr. Susan Collins' house was such a fun experience. It was nice to get to know our professors outside of the classroom and meet their families. We all sat and watched fireworks in the park. It was just a perfect evening that offset any stress we were feeling from our courses." Saidah Rahman (PPIA '19) is pursuing her master's at Carnegie Mellon University.

"Touring the Big House!" Roger Sanchez (PPIA '16) is the associate director in the D.C. Mayor's Office of Nightlife and Culture.

"Nothing will beat our trip to the Motown Museum and then at the end of the program surprising our PPIA coordinator Julia with a choreographed dance of 'My Girl.'" Kaitlyn Sprague (PPIA '15) works for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.


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